Al's Gritty Mix and existing plants...

monjolijardin(z10 CA)October 9, 2010

As I was searching the net for recommendations in terms of potting soil for patio and indoor plants, I discovered on this forum Al's Gritty Mix.

Since I have a few container plants on my patio and indoors that need repotting, I decided to give it a try. I think that I have manage to find all the required ingredients. However, there is still a question for which I don't seem to be able to find an answer: what should I do with the soil in which my container plants are currently growing in? Should I remove most or all of it and simply replace it with Al's Gritty Mix?

What do you recommend?

Thanks for your help

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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

How you approach changing soils varies by plant. E.g., it's appropriate to repot most tropical houseplants and trees when they are growing robustly, with the month before their most robust growth being the best. This is usually Jun/Jul for the summer growers and for the largest fraction of the US. Other plants, like citrus and deciduous trees, are best repotted in spring - before or at the onset of bud movement for the deciduous material. These are a few examples, and I wanted to offer a little more than just "it depends".

If I'm familiar with the plants you intend to repot, I'll offer timing advice. It's best not to have two dissimilar soils in the same pot, but how those soils are situated in the container has an impact on their impact on the plant. Often, some plants balk at being entirely bare-rooted during a repot (bougies come immediately to mind), and need their soil changed over two repotting sessions instead of one.

What plants are you referring to, M?


    Bookmark   October 9, 2010 at 10:43AM
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monjolijardin(z10 CA)

Hi Al,

Thanks for taking the time to read and answer my previous post. In terms of plants that need repotting, I currently have three houseplants and one patio plant that are budging out of their pots.

They are:
- Madagascar Jasmine (indoors);
- Costus woodsonii "Dwarf Cone Ginger" (indoors);
- Zamioculcas zamiifolia "Eternity Plant" (indoors);
- Adenium obesum "Desert-Rose" (patio).

Since you are kind enough to answer people's questions, I have a couple more about the mix. I have purchased a bag of Turface MVP, a bag of A1-Grit #10 (I could not find #5) and a bag of Orchid Bark (for Seedlings). Do I have the right ingredients or should I have chosen a 3/8" gravel instead of the #10 grit?

One last question (hopefully), would the mix be OK to grow begonias? I have one begonia in a pot that should be dormant by the end of the year.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2010 at 3:05PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Jasmine: spring
Ginger: spring
Money tree: summer (Jun)
Adenium: summer

I would make some vertical slits in the root mass & pot up until repot time.

I think the ingredients are ok, if the bark is small enough (1/8-1/4). Do screen the Turface through insect screen or a 'regular' size kitchen strainer, and use the larger screenings in the soil, the smaller elsewhere.

I have grown several small begonias as companion plants for bonsai displays in the gritty mix, so I'm sure any of the larger species would do fine as well. Container media is all about structure. Second to structure is their ability to hold adequately hold enough water/nutrients so you are comfortable with your choice .... and of course it has to anchor the plant. ;o)


    Bookmark   October 9, 2010 at 4:35PM
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monjolijardin(z10 CA)

Thanks Al.

I will wait for next year to start using your Gritty Mix recipe. That will give me more time to prepare the mix. Until then, I will simply pot up the plants that have out grown their current container.

When the time comes to use your mix, should I bare root my plants?

    Bookmark   October 11, 2010 at 11:42AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Yes - all of those plants should tolerate bare-rooting well.


    Bookmark   October 11, 2010 at 9:27PM
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I'd like to add a bit of information, if I may...

I had a hard time locating pine bark pieces of adequate size where I live, in the midwest. Finding the best ingredients for Al's Mix seems largely dependent upon what's available in various areas of the country. Orchid bark was too big for my needs. I think particle size should be about equal between ingredients... give or take a tiny bit.

I found what I was looking for at PetsMart. I buy the large bags of Reptibark, fir bark bedding for reptiles. It's the perfect size in terms of particles, and it's 100% fir bark. Any pet shop that deals with large reptiles should carry it, or you can buy direct from the manufacturer, I think.

I also use perlite, available anywhere... and Manna Pro 100% granite chips for poultry, available at most farm type stores. I mix the 3 ingredients together in fairly equal amounts... maybe a little more fir bark than granite chips or perlite. Sometimes, I add a little vermiculite for moisture retention, if needed.

Hope this helps if the orchid bark turns out to be unsuitable in terms of particle size! :-)

    Bookmark   October 12, 2010 at 3:58PM
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Greg1029(CA 10a)


In the past I've repotted all my plants with redwood and perlite #3 at a ratio of 6:4. I was told at the time redwood is better because it breaks down at a slower rate and you don't end up with Nitrogen problems and you don't have to repot as often.

I'd like to try your gritty mix, do you think I can use my remaining redwood or is the pine bark a must?

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 2:40AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

If the redwood breaks down @ a slower rate than the pine bark, is appropriate insofar as size is concerned, and you haven't noticed any other issues (like suspected allelopathy or nutritional anomalies that can't be corrected with fertilizers) go ahead and use it. You're looking for good aeration and drainage such that there is very little perched water in the container to maximize growth and vitality and provide you with a wider margin for error. HOW you get there doesn't really matter, as long as you're using durable components that aren't limiting the plant's growth or health.


    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 8:43PM
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Greg1029(CA 10a)


Thanks for the info. Just one question, will a mango tolerate barerooting?


    Bookmark   September 24, 2011 at 1:41AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I haven't grown mango, but as I understand, they have a very fibrous root system. For plants with this type of root systems it's better to remove the roots in pie-shaped wedges. That is to say you prune/saw off the bottom 1/3 - 1/2 of the roots in spring, then remove 2-3 wedges of roots compromising about 1'2 of what is left. Do the same next year, concentrating on the roots that weren't removed previously. Then let the root system grow for another 1-2 years before you do it again. It might be helpful, however, to saw off the bottom 1/3-1/2 annually in spring.


    Bookmark   September 24, 2011 at 12:47PM
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Thought I would add this here (for anyone searching), a forum member posting under the tropical fruit forum. Had issues with repotting a Wax Jambu (Syzygium samarangense), it did not like its roots bare during the repot and died. Wax Jambu most likely has sensitive roots as well.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2011 at 5:58PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

There will always be some degree of pouting (by the plant) going on after a repot that includes root pruning, but in my experience when plants react severely or die, it's almost always attributable to grower error rather than the likes/dislikes of the plant. Plants just don't die from a root pruning and repot when it's done properly and it's well-timed. For the first several repots, inexperience/methodology is far more likely to be the cause of demise than any other consideration.


    Bookmark   September 26, 2011 at 9:21PM
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